Surgery:: Day Six (Home Sweet Home)

So you know that potential for a huge snag when you have surgery in another state? Yeah, it happened to me.


I booked a first class ticket home on United Airlines. We left Missoula at 6:50 am, were to arrive in Denver around 9:00 am, and leave for Austin an hour later. But before we even left Missoula we were getting notifications that our second plane would be one hour late. Once we got to Denver we kept getting a steady stream of text messages, saying it would be two hours late, then three, then five. I was in a lot of pain. I was freezing cold. I tried to get a United employee to care about finding me another way home. I even pulled the “look at this” trick, which consisted of showing her my uncovered incision. She started at me with cold, unaffected eyes and said, “Nothing I can do.”


By this time I was desperate. I found a massage place in the Denver airport and paid $120 for an hour-long hand and foot massage, while lying on a heated massage table. It was a little slice of heaven in travel hell.

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When I got out of my massage I checked in again with the “customer service” rep, who told me the new ETA was 7:00 pm. Our plane was stuck in Albuquerque due to mechanical issues and hadn’t even left yet. Said she was surprised they hadn’t cancelled it, but that they still might. In United-ese, this means you will probably be stranded overnight.


Long story short, I blew 23,000 Southwest Airlines points to get home on a 3:25 flight that went through Phoenix and required a plane change. Once we landed in Phoenix my husband looked it up and learned that United had somehow magically found another plane lying around somewhere and had taken off around 4:00 for the direct flight. They landed in Austin about the same time we landed in Phoenix. You do not want to know what I said when he told me this.


We got home around 11:00 last night, which for those keeping score was 17+ hours of travel (19 hours if you count the travel time to and from the airports.) Five days after SI fusion surgery. I could fill up this page with rants about United Airlines, but I’ll leave it at this: they’re the abusive boyfriend I keep going back to. Never again, except I have a one-way ticket already purchased to go out for my post-op appointment in March. I’m considering just canceling it and chalking it up as an expensive lesson. Here is a piece of advice if you are going to Missoula to see Dr. Beck: do not fly United, no matter how sweet they make the deal. I’ve gotten stranded and abandoned in Denver twice now, coming from Missoula. Delta, Frontier and Alaska are the only other large airlines that fly in and out of Missoula, and any of them would be a better choice. Trust me on this.


But back to the most important reason I’m telling you all of this: I did remarkably well for having such a difficult travel day. I think it set me back a few days in terms of recovery, but today I can tell more than ever that most of my pain is surgical. I’m still sore enough that I’m taking pain meds, but I’ve slowed way down on them. Hope to be off by sometime next week.


Dr. Beck was wonderful throughout this whole week. I called his office to ask if I could take pain meds more frequently during my horrendous stay at the Denver airport, and he called me back to say that I could take them every four hours instead of every six. He was very compassionate and I could tell he wanted to chat more about how I was doing, but we were about to board the Phoenix plane and I had to go. He asked me to text or email him to let him know that I made it home okay. I still need to do that.


We arrived in Austin at about 10:15 pm. When we were driving home, I told my husband that I wanted some buttered movie popcorn and a Coke Icee as a reward for my travel woes. I just wanted to sit in front of the fire in my recliner, ice pack on my incision, watching mindless TV while snacking on junk food. Being the awesome guy he is, he stopped at our neighborhood Cinemark theater and made my wish come true.


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It was bliss.



But about 30 minutes later I was nodding off and feeling extremely worn out. When I went to brush my teeth I looked in the mirror and saw that I have a bruise just above my butt crack (which is separate from the bruise at the surgical site.) One of my steri-strips has come off. I am cautiously optimistic about the outcome of this surgery. Again, I can’t say for sure just six days after surgery, but it’s looking pretty good in terms of my long-term benefit. I already think the whole thing was worth it.


P.S. The hotel where we ended up staying didn’t have a handicapped bathroom in any of their suites. They gave us a raised toilet seat but it didn’t fit right and would’ve been a major ordeal to make secure. This is when I learned that I would do okay without a raised toilet seat even though I’m very tall (I bought a raised seat for home so I should probably use it for a bit.) I also bought a “grabber” thingamajig and I don’t think I’ll need that either. I can already bend down to pick things up off the floor if I’m very careful (I credit five years of yoga with my ability to do this so soon after surgery.) But I’ll probably try and use the grabber a little, too, just to be on the safe side.


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